The narrative over the last one week has been of an ally unhappy with the seat sharing pact offered to it when the LJP and BJP leaders including Amit Shah met to ‘sort things out’.
However, when the LJP’s Chirag Paswan decided on a solo show in the Bihar Assembly elections, promising a contest against the JD-U candidates while stressing no differences with the BJP, the logical question to ask is whether the LJP is being used to keep Nitish Kumar in check? Also, whether the ‘ideological difference’ cited by the LJP resolution is part of a larger scheme of things?
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, once the ‘Susashan Babu’ of Bihar known for constructing roads in a state sliding into lawlessness after Lalu Prasad Yadav’s reign, has now come to be known for numerous potholes and mishandling of the migrant crisis in Bihar in 2020.
The strong wind of anti-incumbency in Bihar against the JD-U was brought out as recently as late September in an IANS-C Voter opinion poll. According to the survey, about 56.7 percent voters are ‘unhappy’ with the government and they want change, while 29.8 percent are ‘angry’ with the government but do not want to change it.
An anti-Nitish front by the LJP led by a 37-year-old talking about jobs and ‘Bihari first’ is likely to resonate among the young and restless. Another core vote bank for Nitish apart from the Kurmis, have been the women. With the Muzaffarpur shelter home case of sexual assault on girls very much fresh in the state’s psyche, much of that vote bank is likely to desert the JD-U this time.
In such a scenario, ‘Modi se koi bair nahi, Nitish ki khair nahi’ seems to be the overwhelming essence of the LJP’s political posturing of anti JD-U, pro-BJP politics. The LJP Parliamentary Board-passed resolution also took a direct confrontational mode with Nitish Kumar when it read, “In many seats, there may be ideological fights with the JD-U where the public can decide which representative will keep Bihar’s good in mind.” However, the LJP shied away from fronting any candidates against the BJP.
“We have fought elections against the BJP in Manipur, Jharkhand and even in Jammu and Kashmir earlier but in a friendly atmosphere. We have taken a conscious decision not to field any candidate against any BJP candidate in Bihar,” Sanjay Saraf, LJP Spokesman, told IANS. However, when pressed on whether the LJP is part of a larger plan of the BJP to edge out the JD-U after the election, Saraf avoided answering directly. “Media has the freedom to draw the conclusions they wish to,” he said.
But the language of the resolution is more assertive than Saraf’s statement. It promised a post poll alliance with the BJP to “uphold the developmental agenda of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi.” It promises all winners will support the BJP to form a “BJP-LJP government”. However, there is no mention of the JD-U there, quite predictably.
The LJP goes the extra mile to clear itself. “There are no hard feelings between the LJP and the BJP”.
“For us, NDA means the JD-U and the BJP. The LJP has never been our poll ally. If they indulge in rumour-mongering, we can’t help it,” the JD-U’s KC Tyagi told IANS.
So, what is Bihar’s political scenario today? Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) withdrew from the opposition Mahagathbandhan and allied with Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). So has Mukesh Mallah’s Vikassheel Insan Party (VIP), a small party whose leader stormed out of the press conference of the Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance). If that were not enough to worry the JD-U that it will spoil its votes, the LJP’s emphatic and separate entry should ring alarm bells.
In an open letter to fellow Biharis, Paswan junior wrote on Monday, “This is a decisive moment for the state of Bihar. It is a matter of life and death for crores of Biharis as we don’t have any time to lose. Every vote cast in favour of a JD-U candidate will force your children to flee (Bihar) tomorrow.” It is likely to resonate with non-BJP voters who are disillusioned and looking for a fresh alternative.
Though the BJP has been consistent in its statements that its alliance with the JD-U is rock solid, the party leadership is not happy with Nitish Kumar negotiating so hard for seats even when Bihar’s mood is against him. Also the JD-U staking claim to nearly a dozen seats where the BJP won in 2015 has only aggravated the situation.
Come November 10, when the EVMs will be opened, if the LJP scores well, a LJP-BJP government sans the JD-U as the LJP’s resolution states, may not be an improbability.